Billy Yates (singer)

Billy Wayne Yates (born March 13, 1963) is an American country music artist. He has released ten studio albums and has charted four singles on the Billboard country charts, including "Flowers" which reached number 36 in 1997. Yates also co-wrote George Jones' singles "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" and "Choices".

Billy Yates
Billy Yates at CMA Music Festival, June 2010
Billy Yates at CMA Music Festival, June 2010
Background information
Birth nameBilly Wayne Yates[1]
Born (1963-03-13) March 13, 1963 (age 58)[2]
OriginDoniphan, Missouri, U.S.
Years active1992–present


Billy Yates was born on March 13, 1963 in Doniphan, Missouri.[2] He was raised on his family's farm, where he took inspiration from the various country music artists to which his family listened, such as Jim Reeves and Ernest Tubb.[3] His father was a barber and would often pay his son to shine customers' shoes at his barber shop.[4] Yates and his father would also sing every Sunday on a local radio show hosted by the town's radio station, KDFN.[3] He did not otherwise perform publicly until he gave an impromptu performance of "Crying My Heart Out Over You" at a local show in Wappapello, Missouri as a teen.[3][5] He continued to perform at this show for three years until his father encouraged him to also get a barber's license. After doing so, Yates began working at a barber in Doniphan during the daytime while also working as a nighttime disc jockey at KDFN.[6]

1993–1999: "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair" and Billy YatesEdit

Yates traveled between Missouri and Nashville, Tennessee several times in pursuit of a music career. He found brief work as a demo singer in 1982, but felt at the time that he was unprepared.[7][8] At this time, Yates supported himself financially by continuing to work as a barber.[6] His first songwriter publishing contract was with Hori Pro Entertainment, which led to George Jones recording two of his songs for his 1992 album Walls Can Fall. One of these songs, "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair", was released as a single that year and was nominated for a Grammy Award.[5] The success of the Jones cuts led to Yates signing with Curb Records in 1993. He released one single titled "Turn for the Worse", which was also recorded by Dude Mowrey that same year.[9] In addition, Kenny Chesney would later cover the song on his 1996 album Me and You.[10] Yates also co-wrote the title track of Ricky Van Shelton's 1993 album A Bridge I Didn't Burn.[11]

Yates left Curb after only one single, although he continued to write songs. In addition to these, Yates worked as a demo singer and performed at songwriter showcases throughout Nashville.[4] Among his successes as a songwriter was "From Good to Bad to Worse to Gone", a cut from Ricochet's self-titled debut album.[11] In 1997, record producer Garth Fundis heard Yates perform at a Nashville club and chose to sign him to Almo Sounds, an independent label whose Nashville division he was president of at the time.[6] The label released his debut album Billy Yates that same year;[5] Yates co-wrote every song, and Fundis produced it.[12] "I Smell Smoke" was initially selected as the lead single, but due to a large number of stations playing "Flowers" instead, the label began officially promoting "Flowers" as a single in May 1997 instead.[6][13] "Flowers" went on to reach number 36 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts in 1997.[2] The song came about when co-writer Monty Criswell presented the idea to Yates during a songwriting session. It is about a man who expresses remorse after his girlfriend dies in an automobile accident caused by him driving under the influence. Yates described the song as "special" and said that he was willing to record a song that "strikes a nerve".[11] Writing for Country Standard Time, Joel Bernstein compared Yates' voice favorably to that of Gene Watson and praised the production but thought that the album's ballads were better written than the up-tempo songs.[12] Bob Cannon of Entertainment Weekly rated the album "C+", calling "Flowers" "maudlin" and overall finding Yates' style imitative of Merle Haggard.[14]

Yates would chart only one more single for Almo Sounds, "When the Walls Come Tumblin' Down", before the label closed its Nashville division later in 1997.[2][5] Despite this, Jones covered another one of Yates' songs two years later: "Choices", from Jones's album Cold Hard Truth. According to Yates, he had written the song in 1994 with the intent of having Alan Jackson record it; when Jackson did not record it, he recommended it to Jones, who turned it down twice before deciding to record it. The song won Jones the Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance that year.[15]

2000-present: Columbia Records and independentEdit

In 2000, Yates signed with Columbia Records Nashville and charted one single, "What Do You Want from Me Now".[2] He left the label in October 2001.[16] Yates told Country Standard Time in 2003 that he chose to leave Columbia because he had spent several years on the label without releasing a significant amount of content, and felt that label executives considered his style too traditionally country to be successful.[8]

After exiting Columbia, he founded his own label, M.O.D., an abbreviation for "my own damn records".[17] His first release on his own label was If I Could Go Back in 2001.[5] The album's lead single was "Too Country and Proud of It".[17] Bobby Peacock of Roughstock reviewed the album favorably, comparing Yates' voice favorably to Gene Watson and George Strait while also praising Yates' lyrics.[18] His next independent album was 2003's Country. According to an interview with Country Standard Time, the idea for the album's title track came to Yates in a dream. Another song on the album was "Smokin' Grass", which Yates co-wrote with Shannon Lawson.[7] Lawson would later record the song himself and chart his version on Hot Country Songs in 2004.[19] Three more independent albums, Anywhere but Nashville, Harmony Man, and That's Why I Run, followed in 2004, 2005, and 2008 respectively.[5] Todd Sterling of AllMusic rated the latter four out of five stars, writing that "Yates may be considered by some to be too country, but to his faithful fans, he's perfect just the way he is."[20] In addition, Chris Young covered "Flowers" on his 2006 self-titled debut album.[21]



Title Album details Peak positions
US Country[22]
Billy Yates 56
If I Could Go Back
  • Release date: 2001
  • Label: M.O.D.
  • Release date: 2003
  • Label: M.O.D.
Anywhere but Nashville
  • Release date: 2004
  • Label: M.O.D.
Harmony Man
  • Release date: May 24, 2005
  • Label: M.O.D.
  • Release date: December 5, 2006
  • Label: M.O.D.
That's Why I Run
  • Release date: March 4, 2008
  • Label: M.O.D.
Bill's Barber Shop
  • Release date: December 2009
  • Label: M.O.D.
Just Be You
  • Release date: June 2011
  • Label: M.O.D.
These Old Walls
  • Release date: January 13, 2015
  • Label: Self-released
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Single Peak positions Album
US Country[2][23]
1993 "Turn for the Worse" N/A
1997 "I Smell Smoke"[A] 69 Billy Yates
"Flowers" 36
"When the Walls Come Tumblin' Down" 69
2000 "What Do You Want from Me Now" 53 N/A
2001 "Shadows"
"Too Country and Proud of It" If I Could Go Back
2002 "Daddy Had a Cardiac, Momma Got a Cadillac"
2006 "God Bless the Children"
(with Wayne Warner and the Nashville All-Star Choir)[24]
Turbo Twang'n
"—" denotes releases that did not chart
  • A^ "I Smell Smoke" also peaked at number 93 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.

Music videosEdit

Year Video Director
1997 "I Smell Smoke" Jeffrey Phillips
"Flowers" Steven Goldmann
2000 "What Do You Want from Me Now"[25] David McClister
2013 "Only One George Jones"


  1. ^ "Search results for Yates, Billy Wayne". Broadcast Music Incorporated. Retrieved July 17, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Whitburn, Joel (2017). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2017. Record Research, Inc. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-89820-229-8.
  3. ^ a b c "Billy Yates to perform at Bull Shoals theater". Baxter Bulletin. April 22, 2004. pp. 1B, 2B. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Billy Yates not just a songwriter". The Tribune. September 2, 1997. pp. 3B. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Billy Yates biography". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d "New artist fact file" (PDF). Radio & Records: 54. June 13, 1997.
  7. ^ a b "Billy Yates: what you see is what you get (page 1)". Country Standard Time. June 2003. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "Billy Yates: what you see is what you get (page 1)". Country Standard Time. June 2003. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  9. ^ "New releases" (PDF). Gavin Report: 22. September 17, 1993.
  10. ^ "Me and You". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c "Billy Yates would like his songs to hit a nerve". The Indianapolis News. August 6, 1997. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "Billy Yates review". Country Standard Time. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  13. ^ "Going for Adds" (PDF). Radio & Records: 55. May 16, 1997.
  14. ^ "Billy Yates review". Entertainment Weekly. July 11, 1997. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  15. ^ "George Jones, "Choices"". American Songwriter. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  16. ^ "Nashville Scene" (PDF). Billboard: 37. October 27, 2001.
  17. ^ a b "Billy Yates biography". Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  18. ^ "If I Could Go Back review". Roughstock. November 24, 2010. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  19. ^ Whitburn, p. 203
  20. ^ "That's Why I Run". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  21. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Chris Young review".
  22. ^ "Chart results for Billy Yates - Country Albums". Billboard. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  23. ^ "Chart results for Billy Yates - Country Songs". Billboard. Retrieved July 16, 2021.
  24. ^ "Nashville All Star Choir". Wayne Warner. Retrieved November 28, 2019.
  25. ^ "CMT : Videos : Billy Yates : What Do You Want From Me Now". Country Music Television. Retrieved October 14, 2011.